It feels like we are in a jungle instead of being at the beach - there are tall palm trees behind us and rocks protruding out from the water looking on at the beach in front of us. The coarse black sand is unlike anything I've ever seen: It's black as coal. There’s a sign that says "leave the sand on the beach." Zach and I go for a swim, while Channa sits on the beach hoping her body will recover from her fall. We are in awe of the beauty around us. The waves are good and Zach is disappointed he didn't bring his boogie board: Ever since surfing lessons with Cousin Benny, Zach has surfing on the brain! We stop to admire sea turtles that are washing in and out with the tide - the turtles are so graceful in the water - I get a spiritual feeling watching them. Hawaaiian folklore includes many stories about these giant sea turtles from this exact location. The story goes something like this:
Long, long ago, a magnificent turtle appeared on the moonlit shores of Punalu'u. Honu-po'o-kea was no ordinary sea turtle. Her head was as white as the snows of Mauna Kea. Honu-po'o-kea paused at the ocean's edge, searching for the perfect place to build a nest. Gentle waves tugged at the black sand beneath her. With a deep sigh, she pulled herself ashore.
Honu-po'o-kea dug a shallow hole and laid an egg, as dark and smooth as polished kauila wood. Her mate, Honu-'ea, had been waiting offshore, his reddish-brown shell bobbing in the surf. As Honu-po'o-kea covered her nest, Honu-'ea joined her. Together the turtles dug into the black sand and created a spring. Then, as silently as they had come, they disappeared into the ocean.
In time, the egg hatched into a magical turtle named Kauila. Kauila made her home at the bottom of the freshwater spring that her parents had made. People called it Ka wai hu o Kauila, the rising water of Kauila. Children would come to play in the spring, and if they saw bubbles rising from its depths they knew that Kauila was sleeping. Sometimes Kauila would transform herself into a girl so that she could play among the keiki (a Hawaiian word for baby). Always, she kept a watchful eye on the children, insuring their safety. Honu, or green sea turtles, still come to the black sands of Punalu'u on the Big Island. They can be seen grazing on seaweed in the surf or basking in the warm sun, oblivious to the people that gather to watch them. At night the rare honu'ea, or hawksbill turtle, has been known to nest in the area, just as Honu-po'o-kea did so long ago.
Here and there the black sand bubbles, as cool mountain water, from Mauna Loa percolates through the porous lava. This was Kauila's gift: fresh water for the people of Punalu'u. Long ago Hawaiians would dive to the floor of the bay to collect the fresh water in gourds. Hence the name Punalu'u, which means diving spring. (source: http://www.tammyyee.com/tt-kauila.html) After soaking in the sun and swimming we break beach camp and we head towards Volcanic National Park.